T-Mobile is just the latest mobile carrier to deal with problematic emergency calls, but this time, the problems are bad. Like so bad, people are dying. This month, numerous “ghost calls” from T-Mobile numbers flooded 911 call centres in Texas and have been linked to two deaths. And although the calls originated from T-Mobile devices, people using all carriers were unable to reach 911 dispatchers during the incidents. Scarier still, nobody knows what’s causing them.
The details behind the two deaths, both of which happened in Dallas, read like a true horror story. Last week, David Taffet noticed that his napping husband, David Cross, had stopped snoring and frantically called 911 from his Cricket Wireless device. He was immediately disconnected and was unable to reach a dispatcher for 20 minutes. Cross was pronounced dead at the hospital within the hour.
A similar incident happened last Saturday when a babysitter was on hold for 30 minutes while trying to get help for an infant. The six-month-old later died at the hospital. The babysitter used a T-Mobile phone to place the call, the city said, at a time when the city’s 911 call centres were flooded with bizarre hang-up calls, also known as ghost calls.
Chillingly, the T-Mobile ghost call phenomenon is not new in Dallas. The city’s deputy police chief, Jesse Reyes, said the trouble started late last year, when 911 call centres experienced a flood of calls from T-Mobile phones that registered as hang-ups and also prevented legitimate 911 calls from going through. Dallas officials thought they’d solved the problem in January, and then, this month, people started dying. T-Mobile executives and engineers flew down to Dallas on Wednesday to investigate the problem.
If these 911 issues sound familiar, it’s because they follow a similar situation that AT&T faced earlier this month. For hours, AT&T customers in over a dozen US states were unable to reach a 911 dispatcher, although AT&T says it resolved the issue on the same day. That came just a few months after a teenager sent out a malicious link on Twitter that forced iPhones to call 911 repeatedly and abruptly hang up. The teen, who apparently found the malware on the internet, now faces three felony charges.
It’s unclear if the recent rash of ghost call-related 911 outages are linked. Officials in Dallas say they don’t think their problems were caused by a cyberattack, but they don’t yet know for sure. This is all frightening and awful regardless of the source.
We reached out to T-Mobile to learn more about the situation but had not heard back at time of writing.